While sleep is not often thought of as one of the most important things that your body requires in order to stay healthy, it really is. Yes, sleep has been ignored by doctors in the past, in recent years it has not. In fact, doctors today are starting to realize exactly how important getting the right amount of sleep really is in regards to your overall health. But did you know that there are actually different sleep cycles that your body goes through each and every night?
But before we can get into those, you must first understand how important sleep is to your overall well being. With that being said, research has actually shown that getting less than the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per night may cause you to have a higher risk for developing certain diseases. If that is not reason enough to get enough sleep, here are some other reasons why getting a full nights rest is in your favor:
Sleep Helps to Keep your Heart Healthy
It is scientifically proven that strokes and heart attacks occur more often in the morning hours than any other time of day. That is because there is a direct relationship between how we sleep and the blood vessels in your body. Now partner that with the fact that the lack of sleep is associated with your cholesterol and blood pressure getting worse, and you have the perfect storm for a stroke or heart disease. Because of this, the ideal amount of sleep that you should be getting each and every night is going to be between 7 and 9 hours.
Sleep Helps to Prevent Cancer
Did you know that studies have shown that people who normally work the overnight shift tend to have a higher risk for developing both colon and breast cancer? This is because it is believed that exposure to light can help to reduce the amount of melatonin in your body. And in case you didn’t know, melatonin is one of the hormones that help regulate your sleep-wake cycle, as well as helps protect you from cancer, as it is thought that it helps to suppress any kind of growth from tumors. What you want to do is to make sure your room is as dark as possible and to do your best to avoid using any types of electronics right before bedtime. This is going to aid your body in producing the amounts of melatonin that it requires to help keep you in optimal health.
Sleep Helps to Reduce Stress
Whenever you do not get enough sleep, your body is going to go into a state of extra stress. This means that your body’s functions are all going to be put onto high alert, shooting your blood pressure through the roof, as well as your production of excess stress hormones. It has been proven that continuously having high blood pressure is a sure fire way to increase your chances of having a stroke or heart attack, and the excess stress hormones are going to make it harder to do what prevents all this from happening, fall asleep. The best way to combat this from happening is to learn a few relaxation techniques that will help eliminate any excess stress, which will in turn help you to fall asleep much quicker than normal.
Now that you know some of the benefits of getting the right amount of sleep every night, did you know that there are actually different sleep cycles that you go through each and every night?
The Different Stages of Sleep
Every single night you more than likely climb into your bed and go to sleep for at least a few hours. Well, this thing that you call ‘sleep’, is something that you are probably a professional at as you do it so much, but have you ever thought about how it works? Until about the 1950s, it was believed that sleeping was more of a passive amount of time where you would simply be resting while unconscious. However, studies have proved that sleep is actually a much more complex process than that, and is actually required in order for your body to rejuvenate itself, as well as your mind.
While you are sleeping, your body will move through five different stages of sleep cycle. They include non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Throughout any given night, your body will cycle through the different stages of sleep between four and six times, with the average time in each of the sleep cycles being about 90 minutes.
You may think that sleep is just that, sleep, you would be very wrong. In fact, each one of the different stages of sleep actually serves a very unique restorative function for your body that include muscle recover, memory consolidation, and hormone regulation. This makes it essential that you are allowing your body enough time to go through the sleep cycles on a consistent basis. If you are to go without an entire night worth of sleep, your mind and body are going to be deprived of some of the essential elements that they require in order for you to conquer the day ahead.
Here are the different stages of sleep that you go through every night.
Stage 1: The Transitional Phase
The transitional phase of sleep, also referred to as stage 1 of sleep, is when you find yourself floating in and out of being conscious. This is one of the NREM stages, and you can very well be partially awake while you are starting to drift off.
This is a period of drowsiness that will eventually lead you to entering into a light sleep stage. This is also one of the times that you will notice your muscles starting to jerk, shortly followed by a sensation of falling that brings you back to an awake state. This phenomenon is referred to as hypnic myoclonia. Once you have gotten through stage one successfully, you will slide into stage two of the sleep cycle.
Stage 2: The ‘Light’ Stage of Sleep
More than an average of 50% is going to be spent in stage two while you are sleeping. This is a non-REM phase of sleep, and is one of the lightest stages that you can be in when you are sleeping. However, don’t let that fool you as your heart rate is going to slow and your core body temperature is going to start decreasing.
Also in this stage, is that fact that your eye movements will stop and your brain waves will also slow down, occasionally bursting, which is known as a sleep spindle. Another characteristic of stage two are the periods of muscle relaxation and muscle tone.
Stages 3 and 4: The Deep Sleep
These two stages of sleep are normally considered to be the deep stages of sleep, often times being on the tougher side of being able to wake up from. If you have ever been woken up and felt groggy or disoriented, there is a good chance that you were in one of these two stages of sleep. These two stages are often grouped together as they are both periods of time that have SWS, or slow wave sleep.
SWS is considered to be a phase of sleep related to NREM, and is the absolute deepest sleep that your body is able to go into during the night. And if you were wondering, it is referred to as slow wave sleep as your brain waves are going to slow down to what is called a delta wave, with an occasional burst of faster waves. As your body transitions from stage 3 of sleep to stage 4 of sleep, the amount of these delta waves is going to increase, and any of the faster brain waves will start to decrease.
Besides just your brain waves dropping while in deep sleep, your blood pressure is also going to drop, and your breathing will become slower, deeper and more rhythmic. Also during deep sleep, there will be no eye movement of any kind, and your body will become immobilized. But oddly enough, while there will be no muscle movement of any kind, your muscles will still be able to function. When this happens, it can cause nightmares, sleepwalking, and even bedwetting.
While these two stages of deep sleep sound terrible, they are actually very rejuvenating for your body. This is the time when your body will release hormones that help it grow and control your appetite. Your muscles will be replenished, as will the tissues that were damaged during the course of the day.
Even though it may not sound like a very important subject, your sleep cycles actually play a huge roll in your overall health. To take it even further, it is actually very important that you get enough sleep so that your mind and body are able to maintain their health. Just be sure that you are getting the recommended amount of 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night and you will have nothing to worry about.